Gulls & Terns04
Photo gallery
Photo gallery

Gulls and fishing seem to go hand in hand. Great and lesser black backed gulls (larus marinus & laurus fuscus) and herring gulls (larus argentatus) are common all around the coasts of Iceland, although the common gull (larus canus) is a relatively rare breeding bird. Black headed gulls (larus ridibundus) often venture inland to harass other bird colonies. Perhaps of more interest are the glaucous gull (larus hyperboreus) which only breeds in the north-west and the Iceland gull (larus glaucoides) which, bizarrely, breeds in Greenland and only visits in the winter. The ivory gull (pagophilia eburnea), a bird of the high arctic, is occasionally seen offshore.

Arctic Tern

Kittiwakes (rissa tridactyla) are numerous and breed on the sheer cliffs. There are several gannet colonies (morus bassanus) around the coast, the most important of which is Eldey, south-west of the Reykjanes peninsula. .

Fulmars (fulmarus glacialis), the smallest member of the albatross family, nest in large colonies all round the coast. They arrived in Iceland in the 18th century and were once harvested for food, although an outbreak of psittacosis put an end to this practice. Fulmars are long-lived birds - perhaps 60 years - and pair for life.


The great skua (catharacta skua) deserves a mention as the largest breeding colony in the world is at Skeiđarársanđur. The arctic tern (sterna paradisaea) arrives in April from the southern polar regions and forms noisy breeding colonies. This is the longest migration of any bird species. Nest sites are fiercely defended.

Images of gulls & arctic terns